Oftentimes, small businesses and entrepreneurs seeking to start businesses require capital to do so but do not have the track record necessary to be eligible for loans from traditional sources. Additionally, they may not have the size or scale to justify their lending needs. However, the ability of entrepreneurs to create small businesses is an important component of economic development and without access to capital, these companies struggle to ever get off the ground. Many Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) seek to fill this gap that exists in the market by providing capital to small business in their initial stages of development.
This is the fourth post in a series on CDFIs in North Carolina. As a refresher, CDFIs are financial institutions that expand access to capital in low-wealth and underserved communities to promote economic development initiatives and revitalization. Previous posts have covered the role of CDFIs in North Carolina and profiled other CDFIs such as the Natural Capital Investment Fund, the Charlotte-Mecklenberg Housing Partnership, and Mountain BizWorks.
Founded in 1990 and based in Raleigh, the focus of The Support Center (TSC) is helping small businesses that cannot receive funds through traditional lending sources. Though any new small business is eligible, TSC is particularly focused on underserved groups and communities such as minorities, women, and veterans. A number of programs run by TSC specifically target and serve as a resource to these groups.
The primary means of TSC to provide capital to the small businesses it serves is through direct loans. The organization currently offers nine lending products:
- SBA Intermediary Lending Pilot Program
- SBA Community Advantage 7(a) Loan Guarantee Program
- USDA Intermediary Relending Program
- US Dept. of Transportation Short Term Lending Program
- Farming/Agricultural Lending Program
- Veterans Direct Loan Program
- TSC/Fifth Third Bank Microloan Enterprise Fund
- State Revolving Loan Program
- USDA Business & industry Guaranteed Loan Program
Through its various loan funds and lending programs, TSC offers loans ranging from $2,000 to $250,000. Since 2010, it has invested more than $14 million across the state. TSC raises funds from a number of sources including government programs, banks, foundations, private companies and individuals.
Women’s Business Center of Western NC
The Support Center recently opened a satellite office in Asheville focused on the development of woman-owned businesses in the western part of the state. In addition to capital that small businesses have access to through TSC’s lending, the center also provides support to businesses in the form of workshops and individual counseling. The center is run through a partnership with the Eagle Market Streets Development Corp in Asheville.
In 2014, The Support Center launched a micro-loan program in partnership with Fifth Third Bank. The micro-loans function similar to other loans the fund would provide to start ups and small businesses but are limited to a maximum of $5,000. Funds can be used for a variety of needs related to operating a small business including working capital, equipment purchase, or other operational needs. This particular program is focused on three central Carolina counties: Wake, Johnston, and Franklin.
Anointed Flooring is a Charlotte-area flooring company owned and operated by husband and wife Rodney and Camisha Farris. The company specializes in government and commercial projects. After winning a large contract with the Charlotte Housing Authority, it needed to hire additional staff. However, because of the small scale of the company, it did not have capital to hire the employees it needed to take on the contract. After applying for a bank loan, Anointed, like a number of other small businesses, was told that it lacked the credit history to meet the criteria for a loan. Instead of turning down the contract and losing out on new business, the Farris’ were able to work with The Support Center to receive a small business loan that could help them meet the short-term needs of the company. The loan allowed them to hire the workers necessary for the Charlotte Housing Authority project and continue expanding their business.
More information about The Support Center and small business lending can be found at The Support Center website.
Steven Reilly is a current graduate student in the Department of City and Regional Planning. He is also a Community Revitalization Fellow with the School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative (DFI)